Wednesday, September 30, 2015

One Postgame Take

Sundays have been rough on me so far this September, but I was able to find a quiet place to watch the second half last week and witness the majestic accomplishment of reaching 2-1 after a Clown Car start to the season.

The ridiculous conservative playcalling on our second-to-last drive could have undone the whole thing, but a flubbed punt return by the Browns bailed Musgrave out.

It was an example of the breaks finally going our way, just as they did late in the Ravens game. 

It was also an example of the Raiders winning exactly the type of of game they've been known for losing, just as they did against the Ravens (you know, the close game where they prevent a win on a defense, or can't punch in that final score in the last minutes). 

It was an example of building on momentum, which is something we've rarely seen lately. 

It was a sense of "out with the old, in with the new" cultural shift, with Mack, Cooper and Carr cutting loose and redefining the Raiders.

On paper, these are two solid wins. But there's something that feels immensely symbolic about them, as if demons are being exorcised. They are the games we always lose--but somehow didn't. 

(Speaking of symbolism, how about the Niners going down the drain over the past two weeks after a strong first game)

The sample size is still small, but there's no denying that a blast of Minty Fresh air has suddenly blown through the Raider Nation.

So now come the Bears. Another type of game we typically lose--you know, the momentum buster, the "how did they lose to those guys when they looked so good last week" kind of game. 

If we go 3-1, it's time to fasten your seat belts. 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Browns Gameday Thread

My apologies for not doing a postgame take this week, lots of traveling, didn't even get to see the game but was able to tune into the radio call of the fourth quarter. It was an amazing victory, they kind of game the Raiders seem to have always lost lately, but this time they didn't. Hopefully some demons were buried. 

Now onto the beatable Browns. Let's make this 2-1. GO RAIDERS!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Ravens Gameday Thread

The sooner we can move on from last week, the better, so I'm getting this gameday thread going early. 

Picking up from last Sunday, areas where we need improvement are: running, receiving, throwing, secondary, pressuring, special teams, preparation, playcalling....oh, I give up.

There is simply NO excuse for a continuation of what we saw last week. We have to assume, or at least hope, that it was a blip on the radar. 

On that note, we should see some vast improvement and a competitive game on Sunday. Let's GO RAIDERS!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

One Postgame Take

I'll make this quick, because I'm on the road and on my mobile. I tuned into the second half on the radio just in time to hear Tom Flores describe the overall effort as "horrible," with a nod to "ridiculous." After the game, Jack DR describe it as "embarrassing." Mind you, these are not my words, although they very easily could be. They are the words of the current head coach as well as of one of our Super Bowl winning coaches.

I will add the Clown Car graphic to this take as soon as I can, as it was justly earned.
How can this team change personnel, change coaches, have drafts, have free agency, and still look so freaking similar to last year, and the year before that, and the year before that? It's like an ongoing episode of the Twilight Zone.
Let's just hope it was some sort of weird blip, and not a sign of things to come, which would be yet another trip back to the future.

Bengals Gameday Thread

As demonstrated, the minimum expectation heading into this year (at least as far as the ownership-management regime is concerned) is a .500 record.

So let's get the party started today, in Oakland, against a capable but by-no-means indomitable team. Stuff the run, don't give up the big play, establish tempo on offense and be judiciously creative. GO RAIDERS!

Friday, September 04, 2015

The Math of Expectations

The Raiders should be expected to notch eight wins this year at a minimum, given the time and tools available to Mark Davis and Reggie McKenzie in recent years. And here's the fuzzy math to prove it: 

For starters, this exercise aims to be conservative and reasonable in its analysis. On that note, let's give Mark/Reggie a complete pass for 2012. It was a year to clean house, or at least get it in order. That year, the Raiders went 4-12. 

So our win basis for today's exercise is four. That is our starting point.

Now, the whole point of free agency and the draft is to get better, not worse. In other words, with each draft and free agency period, there's an expectation of improvement with a positive impact on results.

Furthermore, the arrival of a better coach and coaching staff should also have a positive impact on results.

In other words, there are expectations that come with executing things like the draft, free agent signings and coach hirings. 

Which brings us to what I would call The Math of Expectations:

Let's begin by assigning values to minimal expectations of a job done well in running an NFL team, and specifically a rebuilding team that sorely lacks talent.

For a rebuilding team, a competent job in free agency should conservatively result in a gain of .75 of a win in the standings. Over the past two years (when we've truly had money to spend), that would add up to 1.5 wins.

I think you could also make a conservative estimate that the same holds for the draft (a gain of .75 wins per complete draft). Therefore, the past three complete drafts should add up to at least 2.25 expected wins.

Therefore, the cumulative conservative expectation is 2.25 wins + 1.5 wins since 2013.

Together, this adds up to an expected gain of 3.75 wins accumulated over the past three drafts and two free agency periods. 

Next up, the coaching factor. I will be conservative on this front as well. At a bare minimum, replacing Dennis Allen & Co. with a better staff should be worth at least one extra win. Improving results is the whole point of changing coaches, right?

Given that, we now have a minimum expectation of 4.75 wins gained.

Now, as explained at the top, our baseline starting point for Mark/Reggie was four wins. Add to that the 4.75 expected wins gained as outlined above, and you have a reasonable expectation of 8.75 wins by the conclusion of the 2015 season. And to be more conservative, let's round it down to eight wins, ie: a .500 record.

Some will say, hey wait a minute, we went 3-13 last year, so how can the baseline be four wins. My answer is that the expectations are not simply erased by missing the expectations. You're supposed to get better in the draft and free agency. That's the expectation. If you don't  get better, that doesn't mean the expectation was wrong or that it has been erased. It just means that the expectation was not met. 

So there you have it. The Raiders should reach .500 this year. Now it's time to see if they will. Aim high, go Raiders!

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Reggie McKenzie, Home Run Hitter

I have to laugh when folks defend Reggie McKenzie's first complete draft as general manager of the Raiders in 2013.

It was not a good draft. For our first pick, we selected a CB who was recuperating from a life-threatening injury. For our second pick, we selected a lineman who'd been playing the game of football for less than three years. More than two years later, both have yet to demonstrate value comparable to their draft slots. They smacked of projects at the time, and they still look like projects, which is exactly what a rebuilding team didn't need: multi-year projects. The decision making was nothing short of bizarre in the first two rounds.

In the third round, we got Sio Moore (Associated Press headline last week: "Sio Moore Fighting for Spot on Team). In the fourth round, we drafted a quarterback who was demoted to the practice squad before the start of the season.

Latavius Murray and Mychal Rivera in the sixth round were nice gets, but not enough to salvage the earlier missteps.

Those who defend the 2013 draft apparently don't know what a good draft looks like, which is odd, because they've had a front-row seat to what a good draft actually looks like, because Reggie McKenzie has turned in a couple over the past two years. 

In the first two rounds (the money rounds) of the 2014 draft, Reggie grabbed what looks like a Hall-of-Fame caliber talent in Kahlil Mack, and a possible long-term starting quarterback in Derek Carr. He followed that up with a what looks looks like a game-changing WR in Amari Cooper in the first round this year. Mario Edwards in the second round looks pretty strong, too. 

Talk about an about-face. Talk about hitting some home runs. Talk about back-to-back  triumphs. Those are really good drafts, if not truly great (we need to play some games first).

It's no secret that I have been critical of Reggie McKenzie. I still am when I think it's merited. I think our free agency execution has been lacking, and I think that, combined with a bad draft in 2013, has led to a snail's pace on the comeback trail. I'm not sure why we had to wait three years for Jack Del Rio to come in and inform the organization that it needed to get its football facilities up to standard

So while I don't give Reggie and A-grade as general manager so far, he seems to have aced the past two drafts as far as the money rounds are concerned.

I've always said that elite talent never takes long to assert itself. That's why Amari Cooper is already our #1 receiver, why Derek Carr beat out Matt Schaub to cement his position as the starting QB as a rookie, and why Kahlil Mack is already renowned across the NFL. 

Kudos to Reggie for a pair of drafts that have netted us one, two or possibly three of the finest talents we've seen on a Raiders roster in a long time (kickers excepted). It gives us something to watch and to be excited about headed into 2016.